Halloween Resurrection (2002) – Rick Rosenthal

“Trick or Treat, motherfucker.” One of many pointed and eloquent one-liners delivered by critically-acclaimed thespian, Busta Rhymes in the final chapter of the original Halloween series, Halloween: Resurrection. I don’t like to throw around the phrase “warrior poet” very often, but Busta’s wise words throughout the film, along with his ample kung fu skills, helped defeat Michael Myers and any legitimate hope of resurrecting the series without Rob Zombie’s rueful reboot. This movie sucks balls. Like big greasy balls that have been trapped in the same sweaty overalls for 25 years while their owner slices up teenagers in a white mask. It’s terrible. It’s gimmicky, it’s pointless, and it’s a terrible way to end one of the best horror franchises out there. It panders to the audience rather than challenging them or showing them something new.

Rick Rosenthal, director of Halloween II, returns in 2002 for the 8th installment in the saga. The film starts out with an interesting plot twist taking place at the end of the previous film H20. That plotline is promptly stabbed in the back and tossed off the roof to its death on the cold ground. Enter the new modern plotline, an atrocious and accidentally comical script, and a cast of characters that you won’t care about- in fact I was frustrated that it took Michael so long to kill them.

Warning: This review contains spoilers to the previous films and the beginning of this film.

The movie opens with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) locked in a mental hospital. At the end of the previous film, H20, Laurie has Michael pinned against a tree branch and she chops his head off with an axe. Except in the opening scene of this movie, we find out that Michael had switched clothes with one a paramedic and escaped. The guy whose head Laurie removed was not her brother. She has gone insane with guilt. Of course Michael shows up. There is a big face off which will end their sibling rivalry for good.

Then the film decides to discard this interesting plotline and set up the nonsensical plot that follows for the next 75 minutes. Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks are TV producers filming a reality show in the Myers house. 6 sexy teens sign up to spend a night there filmed by hidden cameras and try to figure out what drove Michael to his murderous state. Busta has planted some red herrings around the house. Of course Michael shows up and starts eliminating the acting school dropouts as they break the cardinal rules of horror movies one by one. Now (spoiler alert) we see Michael’s eyes pop open in the final frame of the movie so all hope is not lost for the franchise (I’m counting the Rob Zombie remakes as a separate entity). I’d hate to see the original saga go out on this note.

This film jumps right onto the early-aughts reality TV bandwagon. They even make a reference to ‘voting someone off the island.’  That paired with shaky, intentionally scratchy,  28.8 kbps webcam footage are probably making John Carpenter spin in his grave. Well he’s not dead, but I’ll bet he’s the type of dude that sleeps in a coffin. Probably surrounded by hoes. Anyway, the movie just caters to the lowest common denominator of horror fans. If Anna Farris was in it, and the score was a little different, you’d think it was Scary Movie 2 and you’d probably laugh your ass off.  It’s gimmicky and pointless and it’s offensive to me as a human being.

The characters are all dull, and flat. They’re like bland caricatures. Even the leading lady -I guess she’s the lead, she really receives less development than some of her friends who are clearly there as butcher knife fodder – is just the overly-stereotypical good girl. “Are you sure it’s not too revealing?” she says at one point about a rather conservative top that her friend picked out for her.

If you can summon the inner masochism to watch this train-wreck, bring a bottle of booze and play this drinking game. Take a drink every time:

  • Busta Rhymes gives someone sage advice
  • Michael Meyers blatantly defies the laws of physics
  • A character makes an inappropriate sexual advance on someone they just met
  • The good girl says something pointless to prove she’s the good girl
  • Busta uses Halloween themed puns or wordplay with the word ‘fuck’

Probably call an ambulance after about 20 minutes because you’re going to have alcohol poisoning.

To be fair, if this movie wasn’t tantamount to drawing moustaches all over the Sistine Chapel, I would have actually liked Busta Rhyme’s performance. He is the only character with any real development and he’s actually pretty entertaining and funny. Not scary, funny.

  1. Is it scary: 3- There are a couple creepy moments in the old Myers house, but the dialog and the acting keep you from experiencing any real fear.
  2. Originality: 2- This is just cookie-cutter horror. Utterly clichéd and rehashed.
  3. Blood: 4- Not bad. I could have handled a little more gore though.
  4. Believability: 2–The storytelling and the acting were so bad. This whole thing was a waste of time.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 3- I actually kind of liked what they did with the Myers house and the basement and whatnot but the stupid webcam stuff was terrible.                                                                                                             

Final Score: 14/50

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Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) – Steve Miner

Alright guys, We’re in the home stretch. Only 3 more Halloween films to go. Today’s installment: Steve Miner’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. As the title indicates, the 7th film in the series, takes place 20 years after the events of the original. And the best part is Jamie Lee Curtis is back. Wait a minute. I thought Laurie Strode was dead? We’ll get to that. Though this film ignores the events, plotlines, etc. of Halloween 3­ through 6, I can’t say that it actually defies anything that happened in those films either. It simply doesn’t reference any of it. There is a slight issue with Laurie Strode’s children/baby daddy(s), but it’s not a deal breaker. I’m not going to include it in this review but ask me if you’re interested and I can explain.

Overall, the movie is pretty solid. It’s not a home run, but it was a nice little trip down memory lane for people who loved Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two movies. She does a good job playing the still-traumatized, grown-up survivor of the Halloween massacres all those years ago. H20 tries to use elements from the original movie to bolster its slasher street cred, but ultimately I think it falls flat on the scares. The problem is that it may be a little too self aware for its own good though. Possibly to a fault, it is laden with allusions and little tidbits of horror nostalgia that keep the movie from really spreading its wings in terms of big scares. I think the choice to keep the plot simple and focused on Laurie Strode was a good one. It would have been too much to keep track of all the other plotlines in the previous sequels.

The story opens with a little scene in which we meet (the deceased) Loomis’s ex-nurse. In her house are all Loomis’ files on Michael Myers. For some reason Joseph Gordon-Levitt is there. Michael kills the nurse, Joseph and his friend after stealing files that lead him to the grown up Laurie Strode. We find out that Laurie has had her name changed and moved to California, where she is now Keri Tate, (Why you would choose the last name of a victim of another mass murder, I have no idea…) Headmistress of a fancy private school. Her son John (Josh Hartnett) attends the school as well. We first see Laurie Strode/Keri Tate on October 30th after she’s had a Michael Myers nightmare. John rushes to the medicine cabinet where we see she’s been prescribed enough pills to put down a herd of stampeding, depressed elephants.

The school has a field trip on Halloween night and all the kids leave. John remains behind with a friend and some girlfriends for a secret sexy Halloween sleepover. Laurie thinks that John is on the trip so she has some sexy plans of her own with her annoying boyfriend. As he is wont to do, Michael shows up and wrecks everyone’s sexytime. After 20 years of running and hiding, Laurie summons those Strode balls and goes on the offensive. She locks herself in the school with Michael, picks up a big axe and decides to face him. The ending is cool, though not particularly unexpected. Also for no reason at all, L.L. Cool J. is in this movie.

Ok so it’s not the best movie in the world. But it was cool to see Jamie Lee Curtis doing more than screaming and running away. The evolution of her character has been interesting. She’s gone from running and hiding from Michael to standing up to him and even seeking him out to confront him. There’s a great scene after she’s broken the lock on the outside gate where she’s holding an axe and she screams her brother’s name “MICHAEL.” It’s a great turn for her character.

Now, I mentioned that there were several allusions to the original and to other horror movies. They were somewhat interesting, but I think too much thought went into some of them and that took away from developing a scary atmosphere for the movie. There’s a scene where Laurie’s secretary (who is played by Janet Lee – from Psycho, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ real-life mother) says a line to her that the sheriff said to her in the first movie. Janet Lee then gets into the car that she drove in Psycho. There are also scenes in which people are watching other scary movies on TV. There are some other scenes that are reminiscent of the first film, but I don’t think they had the effect they wanted.

The verdict is, for fans of the series, it is a nice addition to the storyline. I always felt a little jilted that Laurie just died off screen in-between the movies and we never saw her again. Though this scenario feels a little cheap – tantamount to the “It was just a dream” realization at the end of a movie – I’m glad they got her back into the series and we got to see her character face Michael. Not the scariest thing you’ll ever see (not by a long shot) but a nice addition to the saga. OH. Except the mask. The mask is terrible. It might be the worst one.

  1. Is it scary: 4- They tried to build suspense but for me it just wasn’t there. The atmosphere wasn’t scary and I kept getting distracted by things. That kept me from getting sucked in.
  2. Originality: 4- This one drew too much from other sources. The whole thing was kinda textbook and not too surprising. There were some interesting elements- like killing a guy with a corkscrew that helped out a bit here. But just a bit.
  3. Blood: 4- I thought this one was pretty tame in terms of blood. There are a couple of good scenes but overall it was lacking.
  4. Believability: 3–There were quite a few continuity and production issues that distracted me. Like I could see the strings holding a dude up when Myers is supposed to be holding him up with a knife. Lame.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5- I have to say that I felt the setting was lacking. There was nothing particularly amazing about the cinematography either. It was all just so-so. Nothing that screamed ‘scary’ to me.    

Final Score: 20/50

Halloween II (1981) – Rick Rosenthal

Have you ever bought a gallon of ice cream that melts a little in the car on the way home and then you refreeze it but it’s just never the same? That’s what most horror sequels are like. Just with more blood, and fewer chocolate chips. They usually add some plot elements that make it more complicated and less scary. In the sequels, they generally ramp up the murdering and you tend to get a nice big juicy body count. You’ll also probably get to see some new and creative deaths. If you’re lucky, the director, writer, and main cast will remain intact, but don’t hold your breath.

Now, even though Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 Halloween II (John Carpenter co-wrote this one, but he only directed the first one) falls into most of these traps, it still stands up as a solid slasher, and a solid horror movie in general. It’s a little unfair to hold it up against the original, because that is one of the best horror movies ever made. Unfortunately, that’s what I’m going to do for most of this review, so suck it. It’s basically like comparing the store brand “Honey O’s” or whatever to real “Honey Nut Cheerio’s.” Close, but no cigar. Thanks for playing. But all comparison aside, this movie is awesome. It’s bloody, nasty, and suspenseful. Rosenthal holds on to a lot of what we loved about Carpenter’s directing and cinematography. And they’ve added some interesting elements to the story. It’s debatable as to whether these things make the story/better or worse, but they set the stage for the rest of the franchise.

The story picks up right where the first film left off. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being brought to the hospital, and Michael Myers, who was just shot a half dozen times and fell out of an upstairs window, has somehow survived and is on the loose again. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the cops are searching the town for the killer after the bodies of the kids from the first movie are found all strung up and hidden around the house. Michael overhears a radio broadcast saying that the survivor of the massacre is being brought to the hospital and he heads there to finish the job. On his way he chops up a few more people for no reason. Just to be a dick, I guess.

So Loomis and the cops finally figure out that Michael is hunting Laurie and they head for the hospital to save her. But it’s too late for most of the staff. Michael has sliced, diced, boiled, gutted, and injected a large syringe of air into nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and security guards. If you thought he head count was too low in the original, don’t worry because it more than doubles in this one. They don’t even have time to show everyone getting killed. Sometimes we just show up and find bodies lying around. Anyway, Loomis and the cops show up and shoot Michael a bunch of times. Thinking he’s dead, the cop stupidly stands over him and Michael pops up and turns the cop into a giant Pez dispenser. There’s a big standoff at the end with Laurie and Loomis and Michael. There’s also a big twist which I’m not going to spoil.

In terms of scares, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark like the original. It’s still got a good creepy atmosphere but something’s missing. Part of what made the first movie so scary was that everything was super dark, shadowy, and hard to see. The times that we did see Michael Myers, he was halfway behind something. There’s something about that being hard to see that made him even creepier. Now, this movie was pretty dark too, but it wasn’t quite the same. I don’t think it packed the same punch visually as the original.

Halloween had a sort of charm to it that this sequel didn’t have. The first had a low budget but they made it work. The whole thing took place in just a couple of scenes. This movie was bigger, flashier, and more expensive. I guess you could say that the first one was untested, unproven and breaking new ground. While the sequel was a little self-aware. You can almost sense that the filmmakers had a certain confidence about things that wasn’t there in the original. This one felt more like a “movie” instead of a “story.” I don’t know if that makes any sense. You can even see (hear) this in the music. The second movie tried to make the music better, more electronic, and fancy, but for that extra level of production, they’ve sacrificed some of the basics.

Listen to the two songs and you’ll see what I mean. I think this sums up the two movies pretty well actually.

The point is that the movie is good, but not as good. The moral of the story is fancier doesn’t always mean better. And I’m pretty sure you can say that if John Carpenter had been behind the camera, this might have been even better.

  1. Is it scary: 6- It’s still pretty dark, scary, and, suspenseful. Though it doesn’t haunt you in the way the first one did.
  2. Originality: 5- It’s still pretty groundbreaking. It’s basically like the Ramones second album. It still did a lot for punk rock, but not as much as the first.
  3. Blood: 6- Probably the only category that will get this one more points than the original. Michael made up for lost time in this one. He racked up a nice little body count here. After the modest showing in the first one, he had his work cut out for him.
  4. Believability: 5–More characters, more plotlines to follow, more scenery to keep up with. This was still decent, but it was more complicated than it needed to be.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6- Rosenthal did a pretty good job here. A dark empty hospital overnight is not a bad setting. He maintained a lot of the cinematography, lighting effects that we loved from the original.

Final Score: 28/50

Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter

Ok so since it’s October, I’m going to run through all of the Halloween films (including the Rob Zombie remakes) and give you guys the definitive list of the best and the worst. I’m going to try to do one every day or so. I’ll probably do some sort of ranking at the end too. Halloween has always been my favorite horror franchise. The first of the series, (and the only one directed by John Carpenter) came out in 1978 and was, arguably, the first proper “slasher” flick. Though it’s fairly tame in terms of blood and guts, even for it’s time, it’s got that John Carpenter charm so it’s dark and brooding and creepy and it doesn’t have to rely on gore to scare you. Most importantly, it’s got that famous Halloween music. You know, this music. By the way, that music is written by John Carpenter himself. (He loves to score his own movies: Prince of Darkness and The Fog) And everything is lit and shot so well, the whole thing just oozes scary.

The pacing is great as Carpenter slowly builds the scares for the audience. We frequently see the mysterious masked man (Michael Myers) lurking off to the side somewhere and just staring at characters without their knowledge. It really gets into your head and you start to wonder if there’s somebody staring at you from out the window or even in the room with you. The first film in the series is great because it’s so simple. There’s no reference to some of the larger overarching plotlines of the rest of the Michael Myers saga. It’s unclear whether Carpenter had these plotlines in mind during the first film. I’m thinking not; it seems like he retrofitted the storylines when he wrote the sequel.

Like I said, the plot of the first movie is pretty basic. We start off with a long tracking POV shot of through the eyes of Michael Myers as a 6 year old boy. He slowly stalks around his house and after his sister enjoys roughly 30 seconds of hot sex with her boyfriend (who promptly leaves), Michael kills his sister with a big butcher knife. Fast forward 15 years. We meet Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). He’s a psychiatrist who’s been treating Michael in an asylum since the murder. He’s convinced that Michael is pure evil and must never be let out of the mental hospital. Just then, he breaks out, steals Loomis’ car, and returns to his childhood house in Haddonfield, which is also the town where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) lives now.

So it’s Halloween night and Laurie and her high school friends have plans to either babysit neighborhood kids or to bang their (boyfriends or both). Don’t worry, they’re all of legal age; they’re well into their late 20s or 30’s. (Illinois standardized tests be holding everyone back.)  Loomis tracks Myers back to Haddonfield and tries to find him before he starts killing again. Of course, he’s too late and Michael starts carving up the babysitters like a bunch of goddamn Thanksgiving turkeys. Well, wrong holiday but you get it. Of course, we’re all aware of the rules you must follow to survive a horror movie: Stand up straight, don’t drink, do drugs, have sex, or say anything like “I’ll be right back.” We basically know who’s going to die and when. Laurie decides not to take all this murdering lying down and she fights back, stabbing Michael about the face and neck with a series of non-lethal weapons. Well, at least she tried.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, though I’m sure you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you haven’t seen this one. Just go watch it. It’s fantastic. Halloween is consistently ranked among the all time scariest movies. It’s the slow building of suspense combined with the utter mystery as to why this little boy just snapped and became a soulless killing machine.

Lets talk about why Michael Myers is such a great killer. A big part of it is thanks to that mask of his. The face in the mask isn’t inherently scary. It’s not angry, or deformed. It’s just blank. Something about that cold emotionless face just staring at you from a distance or remaining blank while he’s stabbing you with a huge butcher knife is really kind of disturbing. And the sound of Michael breathing heavily through the rubber mask will echo in your head and haunt you long after the movie is over. Fun fact: Due to the low budget of the film, the mask is just a Captain Kirk (Star Trek) mask with some white spray paint and some minor DIY alterations. Michael’s black eyes peering out from that white mask will forever be one of the greatest images in the history of horror.  He never runs but he’s always following you. That calm, cold, relentless presence of his is hard to understand and it’s just really unsettling.

  1. Is it scary: 9- Music, pacing, acting, lighting, everything in this movie works so well together to make it really scary.
  2. Originality: 9- There had only been a couple of slasher-esque films before this but Halloween really set the bar and created the slasher as we know it today.
  3. Blood: 3- Like I said, this one was pretty tame, even for its time. But Carpenter shows us that you don’t need a lot of blood to scare the hell out of us.
  4. Believability: 7–For the most part this was all pretty believable. Towards the end, when shit is getting intense, A couple of the characters do things (or don’t do things) that I didn’t quite believe. Laurie runs up the stairs and hides in a closet. Minus 1 point.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8- Carpenter does some great things here with light and shadows. Things are dark and creepy throughout the whole movie. I also like the idea of turning a quiet suburban community into a slaughterhouse.

Final Score: 36/50

The Fog (1980) – John Carpenter

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Though I think this review might be met with some contention, I have to come right out and make the argument that The Fog is not a very good horror movie, or even a good movie at all. A lot of people love it and consider it a classic but I found it derivative, lack-luster and ultimately disappointing. This movie had a lot of potential, but I think Carpenter tried to accomplish too much. He sacrificed the basics in an attempt to pull of something bigger. I think he was trying to recreate something like Halloween, his previous and arguably his best film.

The problem is that Halloween was simple. You can boil the whole movie down to two elements: baby sitters and butcher knives. The Fog has got a complex plot, too many characters, and too much back story. Lets take the characters for example. First of all this movie comes fully loaded with horror royalty: We’ve got Jamie Lee Curtis back when she was hot and didn’t need yogurt to take a shit, and Janet Lee, the girl in the shower from Psycho. But along with them is a whole slew of other main/secondary characters with their own back stories and it just becomes too much.

The whole movie is tied together by the true main character (I guess). She’s a late-night radio host and she’s on the air as the fog rolls in and strange thing start happening around this quiet coastal town. Just about the time the fog rolls in, so does Jamie Lee as a mysterious and mysteriously promiscuous hitchhiker. She thumbs for a ride and starts skanking it up with some dude. So they cut to the next scene and they are just in bed together enjoying a nice post-coital conversation about their hopes, dreams and aspirations, AND THEN dude casually asks her what her name is. She ends up following him around as he tries to get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths of some fishermen. As far as I can tell, her character is utterly pointless, distracting, but she’s the most well-developed, which takes away from time that could have been developing other characters.

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Anyway, the other characters listen to and call in to the radio show and our DJ heroine offers them sage advice in a sultry voice. So the plot goes on and on and gets pretty convoluted. I’m not going to bother trying to give you a synopsis because it would be pointless. There’s a sunken ship, a 100-year old murder plot, a drunken priest, some stolen gold, a lost journal, and a leaper colony. I’m not joking.

Beyond the plot, one of the other problems is how the movie works within the established ‘rules’ of horror.’ It follows some of them but ignores others. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t answer the door. Don’t run up the stairs. Don’t be unrealistically brave and cocky in the face of obvious danger. Don’t have sex. Don’t drink or do drugs. Don’t be a priest (especially in the 70’s, the Padres of the world had it rough in 70’s horror, think about it) You get the picture. So some of these rules apply in this film, then though others seem to be setting you up, there’s no payoff. The body count is not nearly high enough.

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The final thing I’ll talk about is the body count and the way it’s handled. Roughly half way through this debacle, things come to light which identify how many people are going to die. First of all, the number is not very high, and more importantly, at least half of them have already died. And we’ve got about 7 or 8 main-ish characters still standing so you know most of them will be fine. Anyway, lets get down to business.

  1. Is it scary: 4- Like I said before, this had a lot of potential but it wasn’t really scary. There were some parts that were a little creepy, but it really missed the mark.
  2. Originality: 5- I have to give some points here for the attempt at a complex and interesting story. And there is something to be said for the structure of having everything sort of come together and revolve around the radio broadcast.
  3. Blood: 1- and that’s because i’m being generous. During the unsatisfactory number of deaths, there was literally and precisely n0 blood. There was one shot of a slimy, maggot-infested zombie so I’ll be nice here.
  4. Believability: 6- Not only was the story over the top, but the acting and the way the characters interacted was tough to buy.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- This might have been the one thing this movie got right.  It was dark, gloomy, and really creepy to look at. There are figures coming out of the fog but you can’t really see them. Well done, but not really enough to save this one.

Final Score: 23/50

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